According to a new PSA from the FBI, you should exercise caution when clicking on advertisements whether you use Google, Bing, or another search engine.
Cybercriminals are now impersonating reputable brands via advertisements on search engines, just like in phishing emails and on bogus websites. These false advertisements are then used to direct unwary consumers to malicious websites containing malware and ransomware.
This was demonstrated in person in November when online thieves purchased Google Search advertisements for the well-known Photoshop substitute GIMP. While the advertisement directed visitors to “GIMP.org,” the program’s official website, they were sent to a phony website that installed the VIDAR info-stealing malware on their computer.
Because of this, the FBI advises consumers to download one of the top ad blockers for their browsers to help safeguard themselves from fraudulent ads in search results.
Making use of search results to promote malicious and phishing websites
According to the FBI, hackers buy ads “using a domain similar to a genuine business or service” to manipulate search results in their campaigns. These fake adverts appear at the top of the search results on Google, Bing, or other search engines when a user searches for them.
Users frequently click on the first item they see rather than scrolling further down the page since it is getting harder to distinguish between an advertisement and a real search result.
Users are directed to a phishing site that mimics the branding and design of the real site when they click on fraudulent adverts that impersonate businesses. On one of these websites, hackers can easily obtain your account information by logging in or trying to make a purchase there.
However, phony websites include a download link for malware regarding software. However, consumers are more likely to unintentionally install malware or another infection on their computer because the download page appears official and the file they are attempting to download has the same name as the open program.
How to avoid harmful web advertisements
Although search engine advertisements are not dangerous by nature, you should exercise caution when clicking on them because they are vulnerable to being taken over by hackers. Because of this, the FBI advises against clicking on any advertisement that appears in search results without verifying the URL’s legitimacy.
Instead of utilizing a search engine to access a company’s or service’s website, enter the address straight into your browser’s address bar if you are familiar with it. However, you must be careful not to spell it incorrectly because hackers frequently buy similar-looking domains in the hopes that consumers will unintentionally get on these sites. This practice of “typosquatting” gives thieves a very simple way to steal your login information or infect your devices with malware.
It is totally up to you whether or not you decide to keep clicking on advertisements that appear in search engines. However, if you install one of the top antivirus software programs on your devices, you can relax knowing that no malware spread by fake advertisements or websites will infect you. Similarly, the top identity theft protection services assist in preventing fraud while also assisting in identity recovery if it occurs.